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    North America Travel

    Visit Door County Wisconsin

    Three Cheers for the Red White and Blue

    I recently spent a wonderful four days in Door County Wisconsin. Two friends and I based ourselves in Sturgeon Bay, with little or no expectations whatsoever. But we were so impressed. It was a perfect little get-away and I think you would like it too. Here are my Red White and Blue suggestions to Visit Door County Wisconsin.

    Door County Maritime Museum

    I met up in Chicago with two of my friends who joined from separate parts of the country. It was my friend Winnie who suggested I do this blog post with a red, white and blue theme. It was a perfect suggestion…a way to look at colorful Door County and Sturgeon Bay through the colors of summer and the lens of my iPhone. If you visit Door County Wisconsin you can complete the rainbow with your own beautiful photos and colorful experiences.

    Red

    Cherries

    We learned on arrival that Door County is one of the largest cherry growing regions in the USA. And much to our delight, we arrived at the peak of the picking season. We did not pick but we ate and bought lots of cherry products to take home!

    Sit and Sip

    Our sweet little Airbnb in Sturgeon Bay offered a perfect place for me to enjoy my daily morning ritual with the traveling mug!

    Great Lakes Maritime

    Sturgeon Bay is home to the Door County Maritime Museum where we enjoyed the spectacular view and learned a lot about the Great Lakes Maritime industry. We also explored the lighthouses of Door County, and enjoyed the ones we saw. However if you want to see lighthouses you should visit during the Door County Lighthouse Festival in both June and September.

    Farms and Barns

    My friend Cathy was our navigator and her research skills found us a fun little farm to visit called Waseda Farms. We purchased organic bread, cheese and vegetables and also met the goats and cows.

    Red and Delicious

    You won’t go hungry in Sturgeon Bay and we enjoyed great food and drinks, including this Cherry and Vodka cocktail and this warm cherry pie with ice cream. Both are from the Inn at Cedar Crossing where we ate twice because we liked it so much!

    White

    Unexpected Foods

    White is for unexpected foods including the Wisconsin version of “Torte” my friend Winnie is displaying in this photo. It was nothing like the torte I’ve had before – more like a custard pie with whipped cream. We also experienced fried cheese curds, very Wisconsin.

    Natures Painting

    Although the weather was nearly perfect during our visit we enjoyed a wide variety of beautiful clouds drifting through as well as lovely, long, white sandy beaches.

    Geology

    Well you CAN teach some old dogs some new tricks and we learned a new geology word on our visit to Door County. Escarpment. The photo on the right is the Niagara Escarpment which Google describes as

    “…a long escarpment, or cuesta, in Canada and the United States that runs predominantly east–west from New York through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls, for which it is named.” I had no idea.

    The photo on the left is a beach we discovered near the Cana Lighthouse and these beautiful wind battered limestones are eroded to large rounded rocks. Pretty.

    Cheese and Wine

    Well, duh. We knew about Wisconsin cheese but who knew they also made good wine? One of our favorite stops on our Door County visit was at Wisconsin Cheese Masters facility in Egg Harbor. We chose to visit this cheese co-op because we could taste many of the award winning cheeses of Wisconsin all in one place. Did you know Wisconsin is home to every Master Cheese Maker in the United States? Wow!

    And lucky for us, there is a winery right next door.

    Let’s Get Cultured

    Now we aren’t talking about cheese culture here…arts and history are abundant. We were so glad we chose to see a live play in Sturgeon Bay at the Third Avenue Playworks (TAP) Theater. The play called The Book Club Play was hilarious, well acted and perfect for me and my friends who all are in book clubs.

    There are several history museums, and we enjoyed the interesting history display at the Bailey Harbor Visitor Center, housed in a historic home. So much to learn about the immigrants who settled in this beautiful region.

    Historic Buildings

    I love a good ole pioneer building, whether falling down or restored, and we saw all kinds in Door County. Here are a couple of photos I thought I could squeeze into the White category. The Blue Ox on the left is a restaurant in Baileys Harbor and the 5 & J on the Right is a coffee and scones shop in Sturgeon Bay. Both super cute.

    Blue

    Nothing But Blue Sky From Now On

    Blue sky…it’s everywhere in Door County in July. Picture on the left is taken through a lovely stained glass artwork at the Door County Maritime Museum. Picture on the right is my friend Cathy enjoying a cherry tree grove.

    The Blue Waters of Lake Michigan

    Lake Michigan is huge and for me being a Puget Sound girl I had to keep reminding myself this was fresh water. So big! There are lots of sandy beaches, as well as rocky ones too. But these two photos both taken in the smaller Sturgeon Bay area on my early morning run.

    Favorite Spots

    We had some really fun experiences including eating at the famous Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay. This family-owned restaurant has been serving Swedish favorites since 1949. And if you are lucky you’ll see the goats grazing on the sod roof of the restaurant.

    We also enjoyed a surprisingly good, and free, outdoor concert in Sturgeon Bay. Every Wednesday Destination Sturgeon Bay presents Harmony by the Bay in the park.

    Shopping Options

    We didn’t do a lot of shopping but we enjoyed strolling in and out of the many unique shops in Sturgeon Bay (left photo) where the shopkeepers were all welcoming and informative. My friend Cathy who is an amazing knitter enjoyed visiting Knit Whit Yarn Shop in Baileys Harbor. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

    Got the Blues

    I couldn’t end this blog without sharing these two beautiful blues. I love this old truck with the Ukraine peace symbol and this gorgeous historic home turned bed and breakfast located in the historic Sturgeon Bay neighborhood of Louisiana and Seventh Street.

    Visit Door County Wisconsin

    We really enjoyed Sturgeon Bay and we recommend that you Visit Door County Wisconsin. It was beautiful, sunny, delicious, interesting, friendly, inexpensive and colorful! I would definitely go back. Learn more at https://www.doorcounty.comDestination Door County here.

    Dinner at The Inn at Cedar Crossing, Sturgeon Bay

    More USA posts coming! Summer in the USA continues.

    See last week’s post Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

    We love it when you pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday Year In Review

    As you likely know if you have been following all these years, I track my reading year from July to July. Nothing fancy, just keep a little tally in my notebook of all the books I read. This year I read 80 books, and today I will share with you some of my favorites, once again, for Reading Wednesday Year In Review.

    Over the past year I have written 52 book reviews, pulling into reviews my favorites of the 80 books. Sixty of the 80 were read on my kindle, five were traditional books, while 13 were audible books we listened to on road trips. Some of my top books of the year were on Audible…a fantastic way to enjoy a book while driving.

    My Top Fifteen

    So today I will share with you my top 15 of my Reading Wedensday Year in Review, beginning with my top five in order;

    1. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer – This remarkable book is either loved or hated, but for me, it was one of the most beautifully written, uniquely plotted, and astonishingly creative books of the past several years. I admit, if you can’t spend the time really digging deep to understand the complicated plot, (which jumps from medieval times to the distant future) you might not like it. It is not for the faint of heart. But it took my breath away and it is my favorite book of this year. This is a story of how life goes on.
    2. Trust by Hernan Diaz – Like Cuckoo Land, Diaz is brilliant in plot development of Trust taking multiple complicated storylines and weaving them beautifully into a book I could not put down. The story of early 19th century Wall Street is written in several different styles, and it adds to the fun and intrigue of this great book. This is a story of things aren’t always what they seem.
    3. Project Hail Mary by Anthony Weir – to be honest I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Generally I’m not a Science Fiction reader, but Weir’s story of a space mission to save the Earth had me falling in love with the characters (both human and not) and enjoying every aspect of this fun and exciting adventure story. This is a story of friendship and heroes.
    4. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabelle Wilkerson – last year one of my top books was Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson. When I learned she had an earlier book, I really wanted to read it. In this story Wilkerson’s vast research and interviews bring to life in the pages what it was like for the black population in the American South in the years after the Civil War. She follows a handful of real people as they make the life changing decision to leave the racially toxic southern states for points north and west. It’s a brilliant book that every American should read. This is a story of America’s racial tension then and now.
    5. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – Mandel’s Station Eleven was one of my favorite reads of 2018, and once again she captivated me with Sea of Tranquility. It’s another story of alternate realities, looking both forward and back and ultimately leaving the reader wondering about their own daily reality. Is what we do and see each day real? Or is it all an illusion. This is a story about time and place and the human experience.

    And Ten More I Loved

    In no particular order, these ten more I recommend very highly;

    1. The Bonesetters Daughter by Amy Tan – This is a story of family and how cultural misunderstanding can lead to a life of sorrow. Sweet.

    2. The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton – This is a story of what some people will do for fame. Intense.

    3. So Brave Young and Handsome by Leif Enger – This is story about the early 1900’s in the United States and coming to terms with aging and choices we have made. Sentimental.

    4. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn – This is a story of WWII and brave females who changed the course of the war. Exciting.

    5. The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – This is a story about writers, plots and psychotic people in our midst. Jaw Dropping.

    And these too…

    6. Playing With Myself by Randy Rainbow – This book is about more than a comedian and satirist – it’s about growing up, coming out and love that binds through thick and thin. Heartfelt.

    7. The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan – This book is about a near future life where the internet rules our thoughts and memories. Creepy.

    8. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrel – This book is about the power men (husbands, fathers, lovers) had to make women disappear in the early 20th century. Horrifying.

    9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – This book is a classic American novel about a young girl coming of age in tenement in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s. Wonderful.

    10. The Maid by Nita Prose – This is a book about a quirky and lonely young women who finds adventure as a maid in a swanky hotel. Hilarious.

    Go Read a Book and Explore a New World

    Thanks for reading my Reading Wednesday Year in Review. I always welcome book suggestions, and I hope some of these make their way onto your reading list. Reading, like travel, is a door to understanding the world. Go read a book.

    See all our book reviews from the past year on our Reading Wednesday list here.

    Some more suggestions for you here from Goodreads.

    Next Wednesday we will be back to our weekly book reviews.

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews and blog posts. Thank you!

    North America Travel

    Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

    Summer and Fall a Great Time to Hike

    Location: Pacific Northwest

    Hiking is one of our most favorite activities and it is so good for you too. We love everything from walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain (almost 500 miles) to short day hikes close to home. Spending our summers in the Pacific Northwest where we grew up, we are spoiled by so many great day hikes close by. So I thought I would put together a list of my favorite day hikes in the Pacific Northwest.

    Olympic Peninsula

    Definitely one of the most beautiful places to hike anywhere in the world, the Olympic Peninsula is the closest to my home of the regions I’ve listed here. Located in Washington State’s upper Northwest region, it offers both day and overnight hiking options for the novice to the advanced. Listed here are a handful of my favorite day hikes on the Olympic Peninsula.

    South Fork Skokomish RiverMap it

    South Fork Skokomish River

    Beautiful and relatively easy with minimal incline (there is some but nothing too strenuous) this well-maintained trail skirts the South Fork of the Skokomish River in a region just Southwest of the lower Hood Canal. To walk the entire out and back it can be eleven miles or a bit more, or turn around at any point. Keep your eyes open for some beautiful and massive old cedar and Douglas fir trees. There are a handful of areas to access the river for your picnic or a place to rest and enjoy this peaceful location.

    Parking is available

    Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass Required

    Learn more about Lower Skokomish trail here.

    Storm KingMap it

    Storm King view of Crescent Lake

    We hiked this for the first time this past July and it is a climb! If you don’t want incline this one is not for you. But boy do you get some beautiful views from the top. The trail is steep and in places rocky as you traverse the 2 miles to the top. It’s popular on weekends so consider off season or mid-week. The last part to the peak requires use of ropes to conquer the top. Or just sit on the rocks and eat your lunch and let the young kids do that last part.

    Parking is available at the Crescent Lake parking area

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Storm King and Crescent Lake here.

    Lena LakeMap it

    Lena Lake

    I have hiked this trail all my life, since I was a little child and we used to hike overnight for our summer vacation. Some elevation to lower Lena, but it’s a perfect day hike at about 7 miles round trip. The incline is gentle and most anyone can do it. The trail does have some rocky areas and lots of roots but you will marvel at the beautiful old growth Douglas Firs. The turquoise blue lake is perfect for your lunch and then head back down. Overnight hikers can consider continuing on to upper Lena another xx miles.

    Parking available

    Northwest Forest pass or America the Beautiful Pass required

    Learn more about Lena Lake here.

    See more Olympic Peninsula Hikes here.

    Close to Seattle

    Visitors and locals in the Seattle area are lucky to have great day hikes a short drive or even a walk away. We often urban hike around Seattle and Ballard or head east of the city into the Cascade foothills for easy, accessible hikes.

    Discovery ParkMap it

    Discovery Park

    A hidden gem in the City of Seattle, Discovery Park is just that – a surprising discovery! Suddenly you find yourself in a beautiful wooded park, on a bluff high above the Puget Sound or on the shore of a driftwood-littered beach. If you are in Seattle and are looking for the perfect day hike close to the city, this is it. Multiple hiking options through out this beautiful 534 acre city oasis. Who knew day hikes in the Pacific Northwest would include one in the heart of a city?

    Parking is available.

    Free

    Learn more here about Discovery Park.

    Franklin FallsMap it

    Franklin Falls

    Less than an hour East of Seattle just off Interstate 90 is an easy little 2 mile hike to Franklin Falls on Denny Creek. This popular day trip from Seattle can get really crowded on a summer weekend. But check it out in the fall for a beautiful getaway with fall color, or in the spring when the falls are crashing from the winter melt. It’s a great multi-season destination and perfect for the whole family.

    Limited Parking

    Washington State Discover Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Franklin Falls and the Denny Creek campground here

    See more close to Seattle hikes here.

    North Side of Mount Rainier

    The North side of Mount Rainier is easily accessed from central and south Puget Sound and is one of my most favorite places to hike. There are many choices but the ones listed below are some of my favorite.

    Tolmie PeakMap it

    Tolmie Peak

    I love this hike, even though the road getting to the trailhead can be rough. Start at the Mowich Lake campground and hike the 7 miles round trip to one of the best views in all of Washington State. Passing by Eunice Lake and continuing up to an abandoned fire look out where you will not only enjoy a stunning Mount Rainier view but on a clear day you will also see Mount Baker, Glacier Peak and Mount Saint Helens.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Tolmie Peak here.

    Spray ParkMap it

    Spray Park

    This trail also begins at Mowich Lake on the south end. The first quarter mile your are walking on the Wonderland trail before the Spray Park trail branches off. This trail (6 miles RT) takes you through a beautiful and delicate sub-alpine meadows and along to Spray Falls. In late summer an abundance of wildflowers make the trail popular especially on the weekend. Gentle incline and this is easy for most anyone.

    Parking available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass required

    Learn more about Spray Park trail here.

    Summit LakeMap it

    Summit Lake

    On a clear day you can see forever. No joke. This hike is worth the elevation gain of about 1300 feet over about 3 miles. It’s just gorgeous. The road to get there is not so gorgeous though so be sure to have a all-wheel drive if possible. The road often has snow into June. The best time to hike here is June through October.

    Parking Available

    Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required.

    Learn more about Summit Lake here.

    Crystal MountainMap-it

    Crystal Mountain

    The Mount Rainier gondola at Crystal Mountain ski resort is open in the summer and zips you up 2400 feet to the top of the ski area for a spectacular view. On a clear day you can see a succession of mountains including Rainier, Saint Helens, Adams and Baker through out the Cascade range. Hikers can hike down the mountain enjoying the wildlife and subalpine meadows, small lakes and creeks along the way or you can ride the gondola back down.

    Parking Available

    Gondola price ranges from $19-34. Online reservations are available.

    Learn more about the gondola here.

    South Side of Mount Rainier

    More remote than the North side of Mount Rainier, the Southside, including the Sunrise Visitor Center, has fewer visitors so is a good choice during peak season. But it does take longer to get there. Overnight in the Ashford or Packwood area makes for a nice multi-day visit.

    Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap Map it

    Sheep Lake

    We just did this hike for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I loved it. The weather was not very cooperative however, so we did only about five miles. This trail, part of the Pacific Coast Trail, goes on and on, and I really would like to return and see more of it next summer. The first part up to Sheep Lake is very easy as the trail wanders along the ridge and then inland to the lake. Continuing on you have several options to Sourdough Gap as well as Crystal Lake. This hike skirts Mount Rainier National Park and falls within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

    We had the place to ourselves on a fairly stormy fall day, but this hike can be very busy on a nice summer weekend. Consider midweek or fall. The fall colors were excellent.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest Pass Required

    Learn more about Sheep Lake here.

    Burroughs MountainMap it

    Burroughs Mountain

    On this five mile hike that leaves from the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park you will get as close as possible to Mount Rainier without actually climbing the mountain. There are three Burroughs peaks on this hike, and snow is often on or near the trail well into the summer months so come prepared. It feels like a moonscape, and yet a few flowers and plants flourish as do several small mammals.

    Parking Available

    America the Beautiful Pass or Day Pass Required

    Learn more about Burroughs Mountain here

    Silver FallsMap it

    Silver Falls

    This very easy 3 mile round trip hike starts at the Ohanapekosh campground and leads you to one of the prettiest waterfalls in Mount Rainier National Park. Easy meandering trail through beautiful forest, offers a great option for families or those looking for less incline with a big impact. Spectacular hike.

    Parking Available although limited

    America the Beautiful or Day Pass Required

    Learn more about Silver Falls here.

    Grove of the PatriarchsMap it

    Grove of the Patriarchs

    One of the most magical hikes in Mount Rainier, Grove of the Patriarchs is a wonderland of old growth trees, some as old as 1000 years. This easy 1.5 mile round trip hike can be done by anyone, including children. It’s a remarkable oasis of nature’s beauty and a reminder of the importance of preservation and care of our natural wonders.

    Parking available but limited

    Learn more about Grove of the Patriarchs here.

    Summerland TrailMap it

    Summerland Trail

    This beautiful alpine trail is 8.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2100 feet as you traverse from wildflower meadows up into subalpine tundra admiring views of Mount Rainier along the way. Steady incline and occasional rough trail make this better for more experienced hikers. Snow can be present into early summer. Very popular on weekends and parking is limited so come midweek, fall or early in the day.

    Parking available on the road but limited

    America the Beautiful or Day Pass required

    Learn more about the Summerland Trail here.

    Learn more about all hikes in Mount Rainier National Park here

    And Many More

    mount rainier
    Hiking with the family Summit Lake

    There are many more hiking options both for day and overnight that I have not listed here including trails North and farther South. Two great websites to learn more about day hikes in the Pacific Northwest are Alltrails.com and Washington Trails Association wta.org.

    Be sure to check the weather before setting off on any hike in the Pacific Northwest, as even in the summer it can be unpredictable. Be prepared to encounter wildlife, bring bug spray and sunscreen and plenty of water. And always make sure someone knows where you are going.

    With a little preparation, day hikes in the Pacific Northwest are rewarding, invigorating and always stunningly beautiful. Go outside!

    See last week’s post Cyprus – Forever in my Heart

    See our blog about My Favorite Things in Washington State here.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Trust by Hernan Diaz

    I loved the writing and clever plot presentation in this enthralling book. By the time I got it from the library wait-list I couldn’t remember what it was about or who had recommended it. But I dove in, and barely came up for breath. Here is my book review Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    The novel opens with a story about a 1930’s Wall Street Tycoon Benjamin Rask, with uncanny ability to know what the market will do, before it does it. The story also opens with the wife of this tycoon, Helen, who is slowly going mad.

    Next we jump to another story, but gosh the characters seem so familiar…but not exactly. Another wealthy Wall Street speculator Andrew Bevel, and his wife Mildred. Living in a world of wealth and philanthropy in the 1920’s in New York City, but the wife is slowly dying of cancer…I begin to wonder if this book is a collection of novellas pulled together about Wall Street?

    But no. Diaz has a exceptional writing style and he eloquently pulls these narratives into each other. The reader is not quit sure if you are reading an autobiography, a fictional tale, a diary or a manuscript. And you honestly are reading all of the above. What is going on here?

    Enter Ida Partenza. This young woman, will be the one who pulls all of these storylines together. But we first meet her as a 70-year-old women, looking back at her remarkable time with Andrew Bevel. A brief and strange employment that ended abruptly and left so many unanswered questions. Through her memory, and Diaz’s brilliant plot development, all of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. And you will wonder…who can you ever really Trust?

    *****Five Stars for Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    Thank you for reading my book review Trust by Hernan Diaz.

    Read last week’s book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Europe Travel  --  Island Life

    Cyprus In My Heart Forever

    This island. It will always hold a very special place in my heart. I truly love it for so many reasons. Cyprus in my heart forever.

    How do I love thee? Let’s count the ways…

    1.)Lockdown 2020

    The day before lockdown…we had no idea what was coming in March 2020

    In March 2020 after fleeing lockdown in Israel we landed in Cyprus. Our thoughts at the time were that we would sit tight for two or three weeks and wait out this crazy Corona thing. Five days later, we went into total lockdown which I always describe as house arrest. We could only leave our house once a day with permission from local Cyprus authorities, which we obtained through an app on our phones. What initially was presented as a ten-day lockdown became two months for us…and even longer for the Cypriot people.

    Empty Cyprus airport Spring 2020

    The airport shut down with no flights in or out, and so we hunkered down for a long stay. It was March, still cool in the Mediterranean, but dry and sunny most days. All archeological sites and museums, all beaches, trails and recreational facilities were closed. As well as all shops and restaurants except for a handful of grocery stores and pharmacies.

    My friend Patience who helped me stay sane during lockdown

    Lockdown 2020 on Cyprus was definitely not something we had on our travel itinerary, but it became one of the most unique and memorable experiences of our life – putting Cyprus in my heart forever.

    2.)Lemon Grove Villas, Argaka

    Lemon Grove Villa in the middle of a citrus grove

    Lucky for us, we were in an Airbnb called Lemon Grove Villas in the tiny village of Argaka. Argaka is on the far northwest corner of the island, about as far as you can get from the international airport city of Larnaca.

    Lemon Grove Villas

    Not only was Lemon Grove Villa comfortable and spacious, but it also had one of the absolute best hosts we have had in all of our travels. Maria and Fytos were outstanding and made such an effort to make our unexpectedly long stay, unexpectedly comfortable.

    3.)We Shall Return

    Lemon Grove swimming pool

    When we finally left Cyprus after two months, we vowed to return – and we kept that vow, returning 26 months later this past June. We only had a week this time, but we spent the entire week back at our beloved Lemon Grove Villa, getting to see our sweet hosts Maria and Fytos. And this time, thanks to fabulous weather, enjoying the beautiful pool.

    4.)Sunshine and Sand

    Sandy beaches

    If you have been to Greece, Cyprus feels just like that. But without the crowds or the price tag. Sunny skies, turquoise water, beautiful beaches. It’s surprising Cyprus is not one of the Greek islands, but most Cypriots consider themselves Greek and you will see the Greek flag everywhere. At least on the Greek Cypriot side (south side) of this island.

    5.)Ancient History, Recent History

    Aphrodite’s Rock

    This island is said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. The island has been occupied by many civilizations dating back as far as far as the 12th century BC. Given its strategic position in the Mediterranean it’s no wonder so many wanted a piece of it over the millennia. Throughout the 140 mile long by 60 miles wide island you will find a fascinating array of ancient ruins and archeological sites all worth a visit.

    Paphos Archeological Site (UNESCO)

    More recent history has included a civil war in 1974 when Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, occupying and taking over entire cities including property and homes. Greek Cypriots fled south and Turkish Cypriots fled north, leaving everything behind. Still today Turkey has control of the northern part of the island but it is not recognized by the United Nations. It wasn’t until 2003 that a border crossing was opened. Today you can still see the sad remains of people’s homes and businesses abandoned and bullet ridden along the UN Buffer Zone.

    Looking towards the former resort town of Famagusta, now a ghost town on the Turkish side of the occupied North

    6.)Hiking and Running

    Beautiful slot canyon hike

    We love to run and hike and Cyprus offered beautiful and safe places to do both. In Argaka we ran nearly every day, both during lockdown and in our recent visit. And we also enjoyed several hikes along the ocean, in the mountains and through some glorious slot canyons.

    Early morning beach run

    7.)Food Glorious Food

    Kleftiko one of the island’s famous dishes made with lamb

    Very similar to Greek food, Cypriot food is abundant with fresh and locally grown produce. Throughout the island and especially in Argaka you will find citrus, olives, nuts, and berries growing next to wheat, barley, watermelons, zucchini and tomatoes. Honey and breads are abundant as are candies and amazing coffee. You can find local wine that is cheap and delicious and recently a surge of craft beer. It is a breadbasket of the Mediterranean. The cuisine includes a lot of fish, lamb, beef and chicken as well as yogurt, feta and amazing halloumi cheese. Oh my goodness. I was in heaven. Learn more about Cypriot foods and cooking in this post In the Cyprus Test Kitchen.

    Grilled Octopus

    8.) Kind and Hardworking People

    Cyprus Cooking Class

    And then there are the quiet and kind Cypriots. Some of the hardest working people I have ever met, yet always ready with a shy smile and a welcome.

    Cyprus in My Heart Forever

    Orthodox Church in Argaka

    What more could anyone want in a destination? It’s inexpensive, beautiful, delicious and great weather. There is interesting history and architecture, nature and views. Each city offers a wide variety of accommodations and restaurants. If I compare it to Maui it is half the price or less, with fewer tourists and traffic. For Americans it’s a bit difficult to get to, but there are lots of direct flights from London, so that’s typically the best way to get here. But however you get here, just get here.

    The UN Border crossing between Cyprus and the occupied north

    I am already working on a plan to get back to Cyprus for a long extended visit in 2024. Cyprus, in my heart forever.

    Learn more about the Civil War and unrest in Cyprus through this beautiful book The Island of Missing Trees.

    Read our post the Cyprus Test Kitchen here.

    See last week’s blog post about our trip to Israel, Visiting Israel – We Finally Made it Back.

    See this week’s top performing pin Authentic Moroccan Food Tour

    We love it when you pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    This is a timeless and beautiful book, that for whatever reason, I have failed to read until now. And despite it being written nearly 80 years ago, the story remains captivating, graceful and engaging. Here is my book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    This coming of age story is largely autobiographical as the protagonist, a young girl named Francie and her family, are based on the author herself. We meet Francie in 1912 when she is eleven years old. Living in Williamsburg, a tenement neighborhood in Brooklyn. Life is very difficult for Francie and her family; Mother Katie a house cleaner is the family breadwinner; father Johnny sings in a restaurant but drinks away most of his earnings; and ten-year-old brother Neely is one of Francie’s only friends.

    Francie is intelligent but shy and her families circumstances make it difficult for her to make friends or do well in school. Francie escapes through books and reads everything she can. She also releases much of her pent up imagination through writing.

    Smith writes the family story jumping between present day (starting in 1912) and back to the early days of courtship of Johnny and Katie. Francie loves her father dearly, and senses her mother loves her brother more than her. But Katie realizes how smart and independent Francie is, and so leans more love Neely’s way.

    Francie and Neely both leave school to help support the family. Alcoholism eventually takes the life of Johnny, just before Katie learns she is pregnant with a third child.

    Francie wants to finish high school and go to college and have a boyfriend, but life is so hard for her and her family and leaving Brooklyn seems like an impossible dream.

    Throughout the book the reader will be drawn effortlessly into the deep feelings and emotions of these characters, and particularly the young girl Francie who goes from age 11 to age 17 – from a child to a young woman. Francie represents an entire generation of young girls like herself, whose 2nd generation immigrant parents give them everything the can for a better life.

    Betty Smith should have had a Pulitzer for this exquisite book. I loved it. It’s not too late to read this American masterpiece. Thanks for reading my book review A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

    See last week’s review The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan.

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    Africa & The Middle East Travel

    Visiting Israel – We Finally Made It Back

    In case you are new to this blog, or in a Covid fog, let me tell you our story about Israel. March 2020 we had a 17 day itinerary to explore a bucket list country for me – Israel. Our itinerary had us seeing north, south, east and west and taking our time to enjoy. But, of course March 2020 turned the entire world upside down and after only four days in Israel we had to skedaddle or go into lockdown. So we abandoned our itinerary and flew to Cyprus. It took 26 months but here we are – visiting Israel – We Finally Made it Back.

    Jerusalem Old Town

    Visiting Israel – We Finally Made it Back

    Unfortunately our return trip to Israel in June 2022 was significantly shorter than our originally planned itinerary. Before we left Israel so hurriedly in 2020, we had spent two days in Tel Aviv, one day seeing the sights on a leisurely drive to Haifa and another day seeing ancient ruins on our way to Nazareth. But we didn’t see Nazareth or any of the rest of our itinerary. We packed up and got out with only a couple hours notice.

    For the purposes of this blog post, I am only going to talk about what we did on this recent visit in June 2022. Even though we only had one week, we made the most of it and had an amazing visit.

    Jerusalem

    Not making it to Jerusalem on our first visit was devastating to me. I cried on the way to the airport the day we realized we had to get out. Jerusalem….how could I come to Israel and NOT see Jerusalem? It was heartbreaking. So planning for visiting Israel we knew we had to base ourselves this time in Jerusalem.

    Jerusalem is this remarkable, fragile, diverse, ancient, disputed, beautiful city. It also is controversial and home to Muslims, Christians and Jews. But more than anything, it is fascinating. Sometimes violent but we saw only peace. And it is very expensive. You’ll find a place where families and friends stroll outdoors in the evenings. Musicians play and people seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company and their beautiful city.

    Israel

    Day One Arrival and Old Town

    Our flight landed at the ridiculous hour of 3:30am in Tel Aviv. We took a Gett cab (like Uber) to Jerusalem and the 45 minute drive cost $140. Get ready because this country is expensive.

    Because of our early arrival we had rented our Airbnb for the night before, to be able to check in on our arrival. We self checked in by 5:15 am and after a very long red-eye we needed some shut eye, so went straight to bed.

    Around 10am we stumbled for the coffee pot, a shower and then went right across the street to one of the highest rated bagel shops in all of Jerusalem. So convenient. It was great and I recommend a visit to Sam’s Bagels on Ben Yehuda Street. I should mention, it was also my husband’s birthday so a little bagel birthday breakfast was a special treat.

    Sam’s Bagels

    Next we made the 12 minute walk to the Old City. We entered through the beautiful Jaffa Gate and here we were. Visiting Jerusalem – visiting Israel – we finally made it back. Over the next several hours we explored the old city on our own, using the GPS My City App. Although we got lost a few times, it was helpful to get our bearings. We saw the Wailing Wall and part of the Temple Mount, although we couldn’t figure out how to get up to the Dome of the Rock (more later). Along the way we found the Via Dolorosa and just enjoyed people watching and taking it all in.

    Jaffa Gate

    Still feeling pretty jet lagged we wandered back out of the old city to a hummus restaurant I had read about for a simple birthday dinner for the hubs. Hummus Ben-Sira is highly rated for its hummus and it was fantastic and not too expensive. I loved the falafel too! Afterwards we dashed into a tiny market to pick up a few items for breakfast and then back to our Airbnb and crashed.

    Falafal

    Day Two Such an Amazing Day

    We woke early to walk two blocks to a pick up location for a half day group tour we had signed up to do of the Old Town. It was a surprisingly large group and I was a little worried it would be difficult with such a big group (about 40) but it worked out well and our guide was great. The tour began at Mount of Olives to have a spectacular view back looking at Jerusalem old and new.

    Mount of Olives looking back to all of Jerusalem Old and New

    We proceeded back to the Old Town where we left the bus and continued on foot. This time entering through the Dung Gate and went directly to the Wailing Wall. It was helpful to have some interpretation from the guide about the rituals we were watching and also to get a better understanding of the Temple Mount. Jews use the western wall for prayers because it is the closest they can get to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is where the Jewish Temple used to stand but today is home to the Dome of the Rock Mosque. It is not open to non-Muslims. This iconic gold domed Mosque is built over the “Foundation Stone”, one of the most sacred places in the world to both Jews and Muslims, revered as the place where the earth began. We did not visit the Dome of the Rock on this day but would later.

    Western Wall (Wailing Wall)

    Our tour continued through the maze of streets of the old town with some stops to taste treats and also discuss the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus took carrying the cross. Each station of the cross is marked along the route which runs through old Jerusalem.

    Via Dolorosa

    Finally we ended at the remarkable Church of the Holy Sepulcher, for Christians the most sacred place in the world. It is said this is where the crucifixion took place, on a hill before the church was here. This is also the place where the body of Jesus was lain on a stone. Today the stone remains and Christians pray at the stone. And finally and most importantly, it is the place where according to the Christian faith, Jesus’ body is laid in a tomb. The tomb of Jesus, though fairly ornate on the exterior was rather small and simple on the inside.

    Site of the Crucifixion
    The tomb of Jesus

    It had been a great tour and I am glad we did it, learning a lot. We headed back to the Airbnb for a rest because the day had more in store.

    Shabat

    It’s Friday night in Jerusalem and the streets are quiet. The sun is down and Shabat has begun. All will be quiet through out the city until sun down on Saturday. We were intrigued to learn more about Shabat so we signed up through Eat With to share a spirtual Shabat dinner with a local Jewish family, Osnat and Shaul, in their home. What a great decision that was.

    Shabat meal (Canva)

    I don’t have any photos from our Shabat dinner, because by Jewish law there is no modern conveniences during Shabat…including cameras and cell phones. No cooking or working. From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. So all the food that was served to us and the other guests had been prepared prior to sundown. Technically you can’t even turn on a light switch…but they have ways around some of these things by putting things on timers. The dinner included our host family of seven, us and five more tourists and 15 young men from the Hebrew University. We shared in their prayers, their songs, their traditions and their foods. It was one of the most remarkable things I have ever done. I recommend it highly.

    It was nearly 1:00am before we hit the pillow that night.

    Day Three Shabat Silence

    Saturday we wake up to an eerily quiet city. This bustling metropolis has become essentially a ghost town. Shops closed. Restaurants closed. Transit not running. You can literally walk down the middle of the street for lack of cars. Shabat is the Jewish weekly day of worship and thanks when families gather together at home and nowhere is it so faithfully observed as in Jerusalem.

    Running in the park and we were all alone

    We took advantage and did a long walk/run in a quiet and deserted (and beautiful) park near our apartment, enjoyed a room picnic in our apartment, did laundry and worked on the laptop. As the sun set the city slowly came back to life with shops and restaurants opening around 9pm and people returning to the streets.

    Day Four Crossing the Border to the West Bank (Palestine)

    I did a lot of research on making the border crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem that marks the disputed border of the West Bank (Palestine). I did not want to do this tour with a large group, and so instead we decided to spend a little more money and hire a private guide. I am so glad we did. Michael Tours was who we chose.

    Border

    The border that separates Jerusalem and Bethlehem is an unsightly 18 meter high concrete monstrosity guarded by Israeli military. We took a city bus direct to the border. The bus leaves every fifteen minutes and costs about two dollars. Many people cross the border back and forth to work but a permit is required to do so. As a tourist coming from Jerusalem you cross over on foot and no one even looks at you. Returning to the Jerusalem side there is passport control and security scanners. Once across to the West Bank taxi drivers are abundant. When we explained we were meeting a guide, the drivers were still very pleasant and very helpful and kind. We always seem to meet people who want to tell us their brother lives in Miami, my son is in the Bay Area, my nephew is at Michigan State.

    On the Palestine side the wall is covered in messages of peace

    Michael Tours

    Michael from Michael Tours met us promptly and escorted us to his comfortable vehicle. His fiancee Georgette joined us. She is studying to also be a tour guide. We spent the next eight hours with Michael and Georgette. First we explored the barren countryside to visit two beautiful monasteries of the Orthodox Church. We enjoyed mountaintop views looking back to Jerusalem and out towards Jordan. The landscape is stark and dry and mostly brown with green interspersed here and there. In it’s simplicity it is beautiful. As we drove Michael and Georgette talked about life in Palestine, what it’s like to live with this disputed border, and the hardships Palestinians endure as an unrecognized country. It was fascinating and also astonishing to hear some of their stories.

    One of the beautiful monasteries we visited of the Orthodox Church

    Bethlehem

    Next we made the drive back to the city of Bethlehem. Our first stop was Shepherds’ Field where Christians believe Gabriel spoke to the shepherds and told them of the birth of Jesus. A small church marks this spot today. At this same site is an underground Chapel in a cave. Here Michael explained how this is what the space would have looked like where Jesus was born. A manger in those times was always a cave and not a wooden structure so often depicted in Christmas Nativity scenes.

    Sheperd’s Field

    We made a quick stop to see one of two Banksy graffiti art pieces in this city. Banksy’s work is always focused on peace and both these subtly hidden masterpieces were a special treat to see.

    Banksy message of Peace

    Next we stopped at a very traditional and family owned restaurant for lunch. We enjoyed our favorites; amazing hummus, falafel and beer.

    Hummus

    Our final stop was the Church of the Nativity. Simple on the outside, the inside of this church and the underground area which is believed to be where the manger was, are beautiful. The church was preparing for a wedding but we had lots of time to enjoy the artwork and ancient mosaics. We went down the steps to the lower area. This is the cave where, long before a church stood here, a baby was born who would be named Jesus.

    Manger

    In two different lands, we saw one day where Christ was crucified and then another day where he was born.

    We are incredibly grateful to Michael Tours for our fantastic day, and highly recommend Michael and hope you will use him when you visit Palestine.

    Palestine in 1948
    The area that is now Israel with the West Bank (Palestine)

    Day Five Mountains and Tunnels

    We got up early again, having finally gotten the lay of the land and understood that to visit Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock we had to do it in the morning.

    On Top of the Mount

    The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, believed to be where God’s divine presence was manifested. Jews believe the rock is where Adam was created from dust and Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac. The first temple built here was in 1000 BC and destroyed 400 years later by the Babylonians. A second temple was built and King Herod expanded it. In 70 AD the second temple was destroyed by the Romans. Today Jews are not allowed to pray on Temple Mount, and this is why they pray at the Western Wall, the base of the Mount.

    Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock

    In the Islamic faith it is believed this is the site where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the divine presence on a winged horse. Only Muslims are allowed inside the Dome of the Rock Mosque. Inside this beautiful gold topped mosque is the “Foundation Stone”, believed by Jews and Muslims to be where it all began.

    This is also the place Christians believe Jesus lashed out at the money changers (Gospel of John) and was later crucified only 500 meters away.

    Deep Below

    When we arrived in Jerusalem we didn’t know about the tunnel tours. We learned about them from the guide we had on Day 2. The Western Wall Tunnel Tours are operated by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. There are several tours, each giving the visitor a fantastic history with a local guide while walking deep below the Western Wall and seeing first hand the 2000 plus year history here. Our guide was outstanding and I learned so much not just about Jerusalem but religion, architecture, and ancient history. A must when in Jerusalem.

    Western Wall Tunnel Tour

    Day Six Masada and Traffic

    Day Six we rented a car first thing in the morning. We walked to the pick up site about 15 minutes. Then we drove about two hours to the amazing holy site of Masada. Along the route you pass through the West Bank on an Israeli constructed highway with walls on both sides. Then you drive for an hour along the beautiful blue Dead Sea. We swam in the Dead Sea when we visited Jordan a few years ago, so that was not something we were taking time to do this trip.

    Masada

    Masada is an ancient fortress on a cliff overlooking the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert. The fortress was the final holdout for Jews during the Roman siege.

    The fortress was built by King Herod between 37 and 31 BCE. This National Park includes ruins from this fortress including bath houses, great hall and two palaces. In 73 and 74 CE Jewish rebels secured the site while fleeing the Roman-Jewish War. Those rebels held the fort until the Roman siege penetrated the great walls at which time it is speculated all the Jews committed suicide rather than be taken as slaves. Although many scholars dispute this idea.

    Masada

    It was a wonderful visit and an absolutely must see when in Israel. By the way one of my all time favorite books from the last few years The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman tells the remarkable story of Masada. I highly recommend it.

    Unfortunately our drive back to the rental car agency in Jerusalem took nearly four hours due to horrible traffic and we did not get there before they closed. We ended up paying $50 to park the car overnight. Oi! If you don’t want to deal with a car, you can take a tour to Masada or even a city bus.

    Day Seven Laundry and Pack and Wander

    Our last day in Jerusalem was spent doing laundry, packing, working on the laptop and wandering around the Ben Yehuda pedestrian area as well as visiting the Machaneh Yehuda Market near our Airbnb. This market is one of the nicest I have ever been in. We bought some gifts, some fruit for breakfast, had some beers and people watched. Don’t miss this market.

    Machaneh Yehuda Market

    Day Eight Tel Aviv Airport Chaos

    We pre-ordered a Gett car for the 40 minute ride back to the Tel Aviv airport. Our car picked us up at 4:00am. Which should have been plenty of time for our 8:00am flight. But the Ben Gurion Tel Aviv Airport was one of the most disorganized I have ever seen and we spent more than 2 and a half hours in various lines. It was very stressful. But we made our flight…barely.

    Grateful for a Remarkable Week

    This country had long been on my bucket list. There are a few places we still didn’t see, like Nazareth and Eilat, but we saw the highlights and I am grateful. It is a really remarkable place, unlike anywhere else in the world. If you can, you should visit.

    Thanks for reading my post Visiting Israel – We Finally Made it Back. See our post about Marvelous Malta here. See this week’s top performing pin Senegal What I Experienced in My Short Visit. Next week be sure to check out our post about Cyprus.

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    Dome of the Rock
    Masada